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Trevor Corson, the self-proclaimed sushi concierge who gave me a lesson in nikiri sauce last summer, is all over The Atlantic these days, arguing that American chefs, not Japanese, will be the ones to provide us with an authentic sushi experience like you can find back in Japan.
Corson’s examples may be few —- too few, perhaps, to argue a trend —- but he tells a persuasive story about Nick Macioge, the chef at Fin Sushi in Lenox in western Massachusetts, and how he’s bucking a trend:
Instead of teaching us about the full range of sushi fish and shellfish, as well as the varied tastes and textures of the cuisine, most sushi chefs in the U.S. have neglected the Japanese style of eating and force-fed us simplistic menus that feature the least environmentally friendly-and least healthful-items: at the high end, bluefin tuna; at the low end, fatty belly cuts from lesser tuna; along with fatty industrial salmon, and factory-farmed shrimp and eel saturated in sugar. Until the latter half of the 20th century, none of these was considered suitable fare by connoisseurs of traditional sushi; none adheres to the Japanese practice of highlighting local, seasonal ingredients.
So imagine my delight when I walked into a sushi bar one evening and found not only a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere, but a chef who explained that he doesn’t serve bluefin tuna, because he doesn’t want it to go extinct. And imagine my surprise that this restaurant was in western Massachusetts, and that the chef was a rambunctious American whose ancestors had come not from Asia but from Europe.
I know I had a similar mind-bending experience a couple of years ago at Sushi-Ko in Glover Park, where I ordered the omakase and put myself in the hands of….well, not head chef Koji Terano, but one of his underlings. My omakase guide treated me to one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a sushi bar. He was friendly. He was funny. He prepared me, once I gave him carte blanche, a number of fantastic plates that ventured far beyond the standard nigiri pieces.
He served me meltingly tender fried eel in balsamic reduction topped with seaweed, cucumber, and radish; flounder carpaccio dressed with truffled vinaigrette and sprinkled with micro greens and tiny curls of fried carrots; and, best of all, a Japanese take on seviche with salmon, red onions, and mizuna tarted up with a yuzu-based dressing.
My sushi chef that night was from Latin America, Venezuela if I remember correctly.